Sunday, 20 May 2007

Leaving Portugal faster than anticipated!

There was a ‘medieval market’ being held in the town the day we left Vila Flor. We bought some ‘artisan’ bread and cheese and some lovely wild mushrooms; oyster and wood mushrooms. If you look closely you can see me making my purchases despite my non-existent knowledge of Portuguese!

The church here is quite impressive. The front is decorated with blue and white tiles. The area is quite famous for its ceramics and a lot of the houses make use of these to create cool shady porch/patio areas.

Here are a couple of street scenes taken as we were leaving.

It took us a while to work out that these trees are Cork oaks (actually I worked this out as I remembered that the scientific name for oak is Quercus from which the word cork is derived!) At first we couldn’t think why the bark was completely stripped but the tree continued to live; this would kill other trees.

We passed through miles and miles of olive, almond and fruit tree groves often surrounded by flower rich meadow…beautiful!

We stopped for a walk up a hill and discovered a triangulation point and panoramic views at the top!

In order to cross the border we had to descend quite rapidly to cross over at a dam over the river ‘Rio Duero’ Freixo de Espada a Cinta which forms the lake ‘Embalse de Saucelle that forms part of the border with Spain.

The descent is very steep and twisty and you can imagine my panic when Peter uttered words you only hear in films… “I’ve got no brakes!” I was busy trying to photograph a large crop of cactus out of the window at the time! He managed to get the ‘van to stop at the former border crossing pull-in. The brakes were smoking and the wheel was very hot.

Here are some pictures of this area…steep and hilly, not the place where you want your brakes to fail!!

After a while we set off very cautiously in order to get to a town with a mechanic. Thankfully the Satnav can show where the nearest things like that are … garages, campsites, banks etc.etc.

A while after Peter had a good look at things and the brakes were actually fine. I read this afterwards in the ‘Go Motorhoming’ book about mountain roads ; “ The most important driving skill is a controlled descent to avoid ‘brake fade’. This phrase does not put enough emphasis on a truly horrifying experience of discovering that your brakes no longer work.” I’ll f*@!!ing say!!!Aparently the excessive heat alters the characteristics of the compounds resulting in the loss of friction. Allowing them to cool down quickly and stopping as soon as we did prevented any permanent damage. Peter is now an expert at the controlled descent… just as well as we had the Pyrenees and the Alps still to cross!!